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“The finest workers in stone are not copper or steel tools, but the gentle touches of air and water working at their leisure with a liberal allowance of time,” said Thoreau in his 1854 book Walden. Sadly, he never saw Sedona. Sand dunes and seabed sediments were laid and then covered by more of the same over 300 million years ago. Under unimaginable compression, they became the sandstone we see today. A massive 3000-foot uplift 13 million years ago created the Mogollon Rim, running from central New Mexico to western Arizona, exposing the ancient sandstone layers. Walden’s gentle erosion took over. The ethereal beauty of Sedona’s many sandstone formations emerged. Today, tourists from all over the world flock to charming and captivatingly scenic Sedona. Offroaders come, too, running the many famous rocky trails in the area. Schnebly Hill Road is both a road and a rite of passage. The road is crowded and annoyingly bumpy on the descent from the Rim into Sedona. But the views always delight, all that red and buff sandstone formed into monuments ranging from massive to whimsical. Despite being a Jeep Badge of Honor Trail, Schnebly Hill Road is a once-and-done for many. But it is one that you need to do and will always remember, a touchstone of the community, if you will. Thoreau never did Schnebly Hill Road. You should.
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Schnebly Hill Road changes several times during its 11-mile descent into Sedona. The trail is nicely maintained with hard-packed dirt in its upper section, Waypoints 1 through 8. From Waypoint 8 to 10, the track gets increasingly rocky. From Waypoint 10, the trail descends 1800 feet along switchbacks and shelves on mostly solid rock with ledges and exposed boulders. There are no significant or named obstacles along the road, except heavy traffic on weekends and holidays. It is possible to run in 2WD vehicles with adequate clearance, but it is not recommended if the conditions are other than optimal. The use of low range on the descent can help save your brakes.
There are several large pullouts to gather and organize your group or to air down.
FR 9459H leads off left to many large campsites in the tall pines. Continue straight.
FR 9460J goes off left to dozens of shaded campsites surrounding an open meadow. This a very popular area on weekends and holidays. Continue straight.
Foxboro Ranch Road goes off left. Continue straight. Foxboro Ranch an active cattle ranch that dates back to the early 1900s. It also served as a "ranch school" in the mid-1900s. Well-to-do eastern boys came west to study the usual academic subjects but also to gain a true western experience and learn practical skills. Foxboro Ranch sits on an island of private property in the surrounding Coconino National Forest. Please respect the privacy of the ranch.
A large stone and concrete dam sits to the right of the trail. Water is a valuable commodity for ranchers. The dam creates a small lake to store water from late summer rains and winter snowmelt. The unnamed road to the left leads to some prime campsites on the edge of the meadow.
FR 9547F goes off left. Continue straight. The area south of Schnebly Hill Road is part of the Wood Wildlife Area and is closed to motor vehicle traffic from December 15 to April 1. There are a few small campsites down FR 9547F.
FR 153A goes off south along the edge of the Mogollon Rim before looping back to Schnebly Hill Road at Waypoint 8. For those with clearance, this little trail offers several campsites with the best possible views of Sedona and its red rock wonderland. FR 153A is also part of a network of spur trails that is worth exploring and gets you away from the crowds.
A parking lot provides access to a dramatic view of Sedona and many of the red rock monoliths that draw visitors from all over the world. From this point on, Schnebly Hill Road is a steep descent on mostly solid rock with exposed boulders and ledges.
A small pullout serves as the trailhead for several hiking trails including the Munds Wagon Trail. A kiosk provides additional information.
Merry Go Round Rock is a quirky little sandstone formation with excellent views for those willing to take the short but slightly steep trail to the top. A small pullout provides parking for only a few vehicles. This is also a stop for most of the jeep tour companies. Many movie scenes have used this area because of its dramatic views. The round drill holes you may see cut into the rock were used as mounts for heavy movie cameras. One of the gates used to close Schnebly Hill Road during inclement weather is located here.
A parking lot on the left serves as a trailhead for numerous hiking trails.
On warm sunny days, the rock overhang makes an inviting place to park. This is usually a crowded area of the trail on weekends.
The trail ends where the pavement begins. A large parking lot serves as a trailhead for numerous hiking trails. Continuing straight ahead a short distance deposits you into the center of Sedona.
Dispersed camping is readily available along the portion of Schnebly Hill Road and its spur trails east of Waypoint 10. Many of the campsites lie in the Woods Wildlife Area, which is closed to motor vehicles each winter from December 1 to April 15. From the trailhead to Waypoint 3, almost the entire south side of the trail is a series of dispersed campsites, many large enough for groups of RVs. A few smaller sites are scattered among those as well. Most all have fire rings and shade provided by the tall pines. For those with the required clearance, FR 153A hosts a handful of small but epic campsites right on the edge of the Mogollon Rim with the best possible views of Sedona and its red rock wonderland. Dispersed camping is not permitted west of Schnebly Hill Vista, Waypoint 10. For those desiring more amenities, Sedona offers lodging of every stripe, from commercial campgrounds to plush resorts.
From the intersection of Interstates 17 and 40 in Flagstaff, drive 19.4 miles south on I-17 to and take Exit 320. Turn west to the trailhead. Alternately, from Sedona, near the intersection of SR 179 and Highway 89A is a roundabout. The northwest road out of the roundabout is Schnebly Hill Road. Continue on Schnebly Hill Road for a short distance until the pavement ends and the trail begins.
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